School Security and Wearing a Kirpan (Sikh Article of Faith)

2.6 Offensive weapons

2.6.1 It is an offence under the Offensive Weapons Act 1996 to carry, without reason or authority, a knife or offensive weapon in or around schools. This applied to all knives other than folding pen knives with a three inch or smaller blade. Exceptions to this include knives used for educational purposes, and knives carried for religious purposes, eg a Sikh’s kirpan, see Annex F (part 6.1).

6.1.7 ‘Premises’ means land used for the purposes of the school. This would include playing fields for example, but is defined as excluding any land occupied solely as a dwelling by a person employed at the school.

Statutory defences for carrying an offensive weapon

6.1.8 A person who could prove that he had good reason or authority for carrying a knife, for example an officer cadet, would have at his disposal a general defence under the Offensive Weapons Act. There are in addition a number of special exceptions which permit the carrying of knives:
· for use at work (eg knives needed in school kitchens);
· for educational purposes (eg tools needed for National Curriculum technology);
· for religious reasons (eg a sikh’s kirpan); or
· as part of a national costume (eg Scottish highland dress).

6.1.9 Where Sikh pupils wish to carry a kirpan for religious reasons, local education authorities and governing bodies should also be aware of their duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Race Relations Act 1976. Further advice is at Annex F.



1 As explained in paragraph 6.1.8, the carrying of a knife for religious purposes is a statutory defence under section 4 of the Offensive Weapons Act 1996.

2 Sikhs who have been initiated in a ceremony called Amrit Pahul are required to carry a kirpan at all times. The kirpan is a ceremonial sword and is one of the five sacred symbols of the Sikh faith. Both male and female children can be initiated. There is no lower age limit, but the child must be old enough to understand the significance of the ceremony. Children of primary school age have undergone the ceremony.

3 Some Sikhs believe that it is sufficient for the kirpan to be symbolic, so that kirpans as small as one and a half inches long can be worn under clothing and sealed so that they cannot be drawn. Kirpans may sometimes be secured in protective padding. Other Sikhs believe that the Kirpan must be around eight inches long, with a five inch blade.

4 Governing bodies of all schools and, in the case of county and controlled schools, LEAs, have responsibilities under health and safety legislation to ensure the welfare of those within schools. It is for them to decide whether to allow Sikh children to wear a kirpan in schools. They will need to be able to satisfy themselves that the kirpan does not present a health and safety risk either to the child wearing it or to other pupils and staff.

5 LEAs and governing bodies also need to be aware of the possible impact of the Race Relations Act 1976. The courts have ruled that Sikhs are a ‘racial group’ for the purposes of the Act. Depending on the circumstances, a rule which operated to forbid the wearing of a kirpan, or resulted in, for example, the exclusion of a pupil who insisted on wearing one, might be alleged to constitute unlawful indirect discrimination under section 17 of the Act. A requirement will not be indirectly discriminatory, however, if it is adopted for a legitimate objective and is an appropriate and reasonably necessary means of achieving this objective. In particular cases it may be appropriate to take legal advice.

6 Schools should be fully aware of the religious observances of Sikhs and the need to deal with this issue sensitively. It should normally be possible to reach a compromise between the religious practice of the Sikh community on the one hand, and the understandable concerns of schools and non-Sikh parents on the other, for example by permitting the wearing of symbolic kirpans secured as described above.

7 A number of LEAs have produced detailed guidelines on this issue, which have been drawn up after local consultation with both the Sikh community and schools. In respect of county and controlled schools, LEAs should offer advice where difficulties arise over this issue. Any guidelines produced by LEAs should not require schools to admit children wearing kirpans if they meet certain specifications. The governing body and staff at the school will have their own responsibilities relating to the conduct of the school and the welfare of pupils, on which they will need to make a judgement.

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2 thoughts on “School Security and Wearing a Kirpan (Sikh Article of Faith)

  1. Harsimrat Kaur says:

    A request was made to see regulation from USA nad Canada….Below are the results

    Regulations in the UK
    Is It Legal To Carry A Kirpan In Britain?

    Yes it is! Under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (section 139) and Criminal Justice 1996 (section 3 and 4) allows anyone to carry a blade exceeding the length of 3 inches for religious, cultural or work related reasons. The Criminal Justice Act and the 2003 Religious Discrimination Act safeguards the Sikhs to carry the Kirpan.

    The following is a record to discussion held in the House of commons on 22 March 2005:


    David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his Department’s policy is on the wearing of the kirpan by Sikh employees. [221672]

    Mr. Alexander: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) commitment not to discriminate unfairly on the grounds of religion or belief is set out clearly in our equal opportunities policy. This states: “All FCO staff are entitled to be treated with respect. No staff should be exposed to unfair discrimination, including harassment, bullying or victimisation on any grounds, particularly gender, family status, race, disability, religion, faith or sexual orientation.” The FCO does not have a specific policy on the wearing of clothing or items associated with particular religions. This includes the kirpan. However, in line with our equal opportunities policy, all employees are free to practice their religion.

    The FCO has taken a number of steps to address discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. These include: diversity training for all staff, diversity objectives for all staff, provision of prayer rooms, and flexible working which enables staff to pray during religious festivals.

    Regulations in Canada
    In the 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite‑Bourgeoys, the court held that the banning of the kirpan in a school environment is against Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The issue started when a 12 year old student dropped a 20 cm (8 inches) long kirpan in school. School staff and parents were very concerned, and the student was required to attend school under police supervision until the court decision was reached.

    Regulations in USA
    Kirpan Recognized In a landmark decision by a Ohio Court: “To be a Sikh is to wear a Kirpan – it is that simple.” – Judge J. Painter of the Court of Appeals, Hamilton County, Ohio

    The year 1997 marked a landmark verdict for U.S. Sikhs. In this case, the State of Ohio vs. Dr. Harjinder Singh, the Court of Appeals, Ohio, recognized the Kirpan and discharged Dr. Harjinder Singh of Cincinnati from any penalty. The Judgment was entered on December 31, 1996 by Judges J. Gorman, P.J. Doan, and J. Painter. While laws, regulations, and court verdicts will inevitably vary over time, the lucid comments of the judges in this case are worth remembering. Of particular note is the line of reasoning they took.

    The Court allowed Dr. Harjinder Singh to wear a Kirpan in these words: “Here, it is beyond debate that Dr. Singh is a devout Sikh. A central tenet of his religion requires him to wear the Kirpan at all times. It is unrebutted that Dr. Singh wears the Kirpan out of a sincere religious belief.” The Court further states, “The crucial issue then is whether the evidence was sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the Kirpan was designed or specially adopted as a weapon. We conclude it was not.”

    Judge J. Painter, who “wholeheartedly” concurred with this decision, wrote thus: “I write separately to confess that I am amazed that a case like this would ever be prosecuted once, much less twice, at tremendous cost to the State, the Defendant, and the legal system.” He continues, “The Sikh religion has been part of world history since the 1400s. An integral part of that religion is the ‘five K’s’ worn by its members. To be a Sikh is to wear a Kirpan – it is that simple. It is a religious symbol, and in no way a weapon. As long as the Kirpan remains a symbol and is neither designed or adopted for use as a weapon, laws such as R.C.2923.12 are wholly inapplicable.”

    Judge Painter concludes in this way, “I cannot understand the purpose for this prosecution which, if successful, would have had the effect of banishing the members of one religious sect from the State of Ohio for its mandatory wear.”


    Cross Reference:

  2. Jagjeet says:

    KirpAn belongs to khalysa ji. Every sikh family has some rules that is followed by everyone. Kirpan is a power of sikhi. Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji also given essential knowledge about kirpan to most peoples.Guru ji also weared kirpan. Thanks for is nice post about religious.


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